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"I feel very fortunate," says Ceri Morgan, "just to be able to talk about my research with people who know what I'm talking about." What she is talking about is the study of Quebec; francophone Quebecois literature to be more specific—certainly not a rare topic of discussion at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) where she will be spending the semester. But in her neck of the woods—Keele University, in Staffordshire, England—Quebec Studies scholars are understandably few and far between.
Morgan is the first Eakin Visiting Fellow in Canadian Studies. The fellowship was established last year in memory of William R. Eakin to allow MISC to host scholars focusing on studies related to Canada for one or two semesters.
Morgan will deliver the inaugural William R. Eakin Lecture in Canadian Studies on November 12 at 5:00 p.m., at the Faculty Club. Her topic will be "October Crisis Novels of the 1970s."
One could be forgiven for being surprised to hear that British academics would be interested in Quebecois, or even Canadian, culture. "That's a common reaction," she laughs, "but there is interest. There is certainly an interest in looking at areas beyond Europe within French departments," such as her own at Keele. "There are also healthy associations," she notes, such as the one she heads up, Le Groupe de recherches et d'études sur le Canada francophone, which constitutes part of the British Association of Canadian Studies.
So when the time came for Morgan to take a research leave from Keele to work on a few projects, MISC was the perfect fit. She is working on a book, Mindscapes of Montreal, which presents a critical chronological survey of the post-1960 Quebecois francophone novel. Her October Crisis lecture will be based on one of its chapters.
A second project looks at what she calls "literary heartlands," and mixes her own travel writings with the study of novels that are set outside of Montreal, both within Quebec and in other areas of francophone Canada. (Including New Brunswick's Acadian country, where she admits that shiac, the Acadian dialect that sounds like a mix of old French and Quebecois joual, with a smatterings of English, "sort of short-circuited my brain.")
Morgan is here only until January, but hopes to come back to pursue her work. Besides, she has nothing but good things to say about MISC.
"Everyone's been extremely friendly, and it's just been a wonderful opportunity for me to engage with some really great scholars in the field. On a personal level, I've been made to feel extremely welcome here. I'll be very sad to leave," she says, adding with a chuckle, "I'm going to need to settle down in the U.K. at some point, I suppose."